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Fear of Public Speaking


User: JenJen83 - 25 November 2010 16:46

Arghh, this is driving me insane! I have always had a really bad fear of public speaking, even just doing 10 minute uni presentations were a nightmare - I get flustered, shaky, dry mouth, forget what I'm talking about and generally just balls it up. Anyway, my supervisor wants me to now take some undergrad seminars. I would truly love to do it (and get the money!) but I just can't imagine getting through it so at the moment I am shying away. I know how lucky I am because there's not a great deal of teaching going at the moment, and other PhD students are desperate to do some.

So, any hints or tips on how I can overcome this stupid fear? Or any on teaching in general?

User: sneaks - 25 November 2010 16:49

I hated public speaking - I still do, but I'm no longer horribly nervous like I used to be. My one tip is practice, the more you do it the better it gets.

Try using bach's rescue remedy. Practice what you're going to say with friends/family.

If its undergrads, just make sure that you are aware that you are highly superior to them in every way :p

User: JenJen83 - 25 November 2010 16:53

Thanks :) I realise practise makes perfect, but it's just getting over those first few times!

I have a real issue with my voice which is what it stems down to, I think. I pronounce my Rs softly, have a funny accent and generally just dislike my voice a lot. I'm so conscious of it when I'm public speaking that I can't think of anything else.

I think I am probably expected to present at conferences further down the line too, which I am totally dreading.

User: sneaks - 25 November 2010 16:58

I think you just have to throw yourself in at the deep end in a way. I find that i have a different accent for presenting lol - its a bit more posh, so I prounouce my Ts e.g. waTer, rather than waaarrrr :-)

I think its just about having a 'professional' persona. As long as you talk slowly and clearly it should be fine. Your uni will probably run staff development courses including how to do presentations, which you can probably get a place on, they are usually really good.

User: keenbean - 25 November 2010 17:03

Hey JenJen, you sounds just like me, about 18 months ago. I am also a very nervous public speaker and was horrified when my compulsary teaching block meant running sessions with 80 undergraduates with just me doing the teaching! To be honest, the first session I ran cost me a week's sleep, and I was even crying with nerves just minutes before the session. I decided I had to get over my nerves as I want a career in academia and need to be able to teach and present at conferences, and for the last 18 months have been involved in teaching, and have made myself present at four conferences. I cannot tell you how terrified I was at the first and second ones, but the third one was slightly better. And just last week I presented twice at a huge conference in America and got through it without stuttering, stammering, or crying! It was probably the highlight of my PhD, and 18 months ago I wouldn't have dreamed that I would be able to do that (even my sup said she was proud of me, and she isn't normally full of compliments!). So my advice is to get practising- it's not nice, but if you just start off presenting to your fellow students, then try a couple of small UK conferences (if that's where you're based!) then your confidence will begin to creep up. I really had to force myself to do it- it wasn't easy- but I am so glad that I pushed myself. Perhaps you could start the conference thing off with a poster presentation? That way you still get to speak to lots of people, but just a few at a time. And I think the teaching will be good experience- it will give you confidence and will look good on your CV. It might be worth speaking to someone from the counselling service or something if your anxiety is really bad- they often have tips for how to manage that sort of thing. It's not everyone's cup of tea but it helps some people! Good luck with it, hopefully in a year or two's time you will look back and see how far you have come! Best, KB

User: Chuff - 25 November 2010 17:59

Congratulations on being asked,  your sup must know something you don't. ;-)

You know you have to go for it.

For me, the only way i can do it is to be confident in my subject, and given that you are going to be talking on "your" subject - you'll be well away.

So as for hints and tips - what i do, practice on my own, practice with family / friends, then maybe colleagues or other who are not so friendly!, then let yourself go.

Plan the sessions so that you aren't doing that much talking, after all you're in control.  Think of exercises , Q&A workshop style, there'll be loads of stuff on the net to give you a good idea.

But please, do go for it Jen ... in fact in have a quote on the wall in front of me. I just noticed. 

Eleanor Roosevelt: "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do"

All the best, and come back and tell us about your first session ...  Regards, Chuff


User: strawberrygirl - 25 November 2010 22:39

Have you tried toastmasters? It's aimed at people who hate public speaking and gives really practical training and helps people build their confidence. You get practice at speaking with others. I know a couple of people who have done it and found it really helpful. Also bear in mind that public speaking is generally acknowledged as being the most common fear that people have so you're not alone!

User: Candle - 25 November 2010 23:56

Go for it! You are very lucky to get the opportunity to do it and if you want a career in academia this is excellent experience!

Have you tried going to courses at your uni as I think most unis will run some courses or lectures on presentation and teaching skills as part of your transferable skills training that they are very keen on these days.

Remember you know more than the undergrads so not to worry as you are in charge so let them know that. They are also quite easily impressed so as long as you engage them at their level things should be fine. As your supervisor asked you he/she must have confidence in you as they wouldn't ask you otherwise.

Public speaking is very nerve racking as others have said and I agree the key is preparation. I have found that talks get easier the more you do - I usually practice before all mine but the last one I gave at a small informal conference I didn't have time to practice and it still went ok (I was recycling earlier talks with updated results!) I even found places to crack a few jokes as it was a small gathering! I still have yet to pluck up the courage to present to a large audience at an international conference which I know it must be done sooner or later to progress and make yourself known. It's the questions at the end that stump me as they can be unpredictable. Think of the seminars as good practice for those conferences.

Useful advice I follow is to speak slowly, pitch your talks/seminar at an appropriate level so you don't lose your audience and don't put too much text on a slide, pictures/diagrams get the message across better. You can always use notecards to prompt you if you need to. Finding out the layout of the room helps before the seminar/talk as I prefer lecturer halls to smaller rooms as you don't see the audience so well so can't see their faces as clearly as in a small room. Just remember to take a deep breath and enjoy yourself.

Good luck - hope this helps.
(up)

User: nadia - 26 November 2010 10:35

Hi,

It's not really a tip but... I did have that fear of talking in public, even for class-presentations. I had to do a long one in my third year as an undergrad': 30 minutes in front of a group of 20 or so, assessed (weighted at 60% of the final grade), and in a foreign language!
I suppose my biggest fear was to make a fool of myself, which I did - in fact, I spent the best of 15 minutes with a hand stuck flat on the top of my head. The girls in the front row were giggling all the way, and it took me that long to figure out what it was about! I realized it only once I eventually looked away from my piece of paper and saw a couple of them with their hands on their head too, grinning!
On the moment I wasn't sure I cared - all that mattered was to finish the presentation. Then during the quick break afterwards, the lecturer said he had loved it and gave me an amazing 90%, I swear. And the girls who were nicely mocking me all the way came to me, once the class over, to say they had loved not just my weird body language, but my presentation too, and now wanted to read the books I talked about.
Then I sort of saw the light: for THAT effect (the grade + creating interest), I was more than willing to make a fool of myself a bit... Mind you, now, when I speak in public, I'm still not so confident, but I don't feel like I'll die either - I say to myself that worst come to worst, I have a bit of a sense of humour to fall back on... and I try to control my hands, obviously  :p

User: JenJen83 - 26 November 2010 10:49

Aw, thanks guys. It's all so very much appreciated, and very encouraging to hear of those who were like me once and have overcome their fear. I guess I also worry that although I am 27 (not that old anyway), I look a lot younger. I'm concerned they may be thinking 'why is she teaching us?!'

I guess the way forward is to quit worrying and just throw myself in at the deep end. Eeek.

User: WanderingSage - 26 November 2010 11:01

Hi Jen,

besides the useful advice of practice before hand (and I cannot agree enough with this), there are a few other tips that I use. I learned these from a guy when I was with the local toastmasters group back in the USA.
1) Use note cards are reminders, and slip in a few extras that say things like 'Breath!' 'Smile!' or just draw a smiley face. It will remind you to do things that let you get your composure back and can easily forget when nerves are tights.
2) Keep a bottle/glass of water at the podium or where ever you are stationed for the majority of the speech. Take a small sip from time to time if you feel you are going too fast or have a dry mouth. Only a small one though or you will end up giving a presentation on how to quaff a drink in very little time. Again, it mostly breaks your nervous habits that nobody else is noticing.
3) Walk around while talking. Don't hide behind stationary objects or stand still. When you stand still, you do odd things with your hands and posture, and it sticks in the back of your mind. Walk around and the posture will be a non-factor. Added benefit: the audience thinks that as you walk around to in front of them, you are engaging with them in specific. If you have any friends that are into acting, ask them how to cheat a stance too, that will help you not turn your back on people while addressing only a small section of the audience. (It involves standing open shoulders to the group, but your voice - your face/mouth - is directed towards a particular point).

Odd 'fact': more people are afraid of public speaking than death... this means that people would rather be in the coffin than giving the Eulogy.
I don't know if it is true, but that was one extra tid-bit I got from my friend.

Good luck, relax and have fun. I still hate public speaking, but I have gotten used to it.

User: Keep_Calm - 26 November 2010 11:36

Quote From JenJen83:

Aw, thanks guys. It's all so very much appreciated, and very encouraging to hear of those who were like me once and have overcome their fear. I guess I also worry that although I am 27 (not that old anyway), I look a lot younger. I'm concerned they may be thinking 'why is she teaching us?!'
Just one thing to add to this Jen, I started teaching when I was 22 (!) and was terrified the students would question why I was in charge of their seminar, but I’ve taught for nearly a year and a half now and nobody has ever said anything of the sort. There may be an initial surprise when you walk in the room but within minutes they accept that you’re their tutor and that’s that.

User: JenJen83 - 26 November 2010 11:37

Thanks Keep_Calm (love the name ;))

Doesn't help that I got asked for ID buying Christmas crackers the other day. Doesn't do much for one's confidence!

User: JenJen83 - 26 November 2010 11:39

Quote From WanderingSage:

Hi Jen,

besides the useful advice of practice before hand (and I cannot agree enough with this), there are a few other tips that I use. I learned these from a guy when I was with the local toastmasters group back in the USA.
1) Use note cards are reminders, and slip in a few extras that say things like 'Breath!' 'Smile!' or just draw a smiley face. It will remind you to do things that let you get your composure back and can easily forget when nerves are tights.
2) Keep a bottle/glass of water at the podium or where ever you are stationed for the majority of the speech. Take a small sip from time to time if you feel you are going too fast or have a dry mouth. Only a small one though or you will end up giving a presentation on how to quaff a drink in very little time. Again, it mostly breaks your nervous habits that nobody else is noticing.
3) Walk around while talking. Don't hide behind stationary objects or stand still. When you stand still, you do odd things with your hands and posture, and it sticks in the back of your mind. Walk around and the posture will be a non-factor. Added benefit: the audience thinks that as you walk around to in front of them, you are engaging with them in specific. If you have any friends that are into acting, ask them how to cheat a stance too, that will help you not turn your back on people while addressing only a small section of the audience. (It involves standing open shoulders to the group, but your voice - your face/mouth - is directed towards a particular point).

Odd 'fact': more people are afraid of public speaking than death... this means that people would rather be in the coffin than giving the Eulogy.
I don't know if it is true, but that was one extra tid-bit I got from my friend.

Good luck, relax and have fun. I still hate public speaking, but I have gotten used to it.
Thanks, I shall take all of this on board :) Maybe a card with 'breathe' on it would be appropriate for me!

I think I probably am more scared of public speaking then of death now you come to mention it... how stupid.

User: screamingaddabs - 26 November 2010 13:26

I've commented before on a similar thread, and the number one bit of advice I would give you is...

People (i.e. your audience) want you to do well!

No-one wants people to go wrong when they are giving a talk/presenting/teaching, so they will actually let you get away with going wrong quite a lot because they want you to be good. If you can remember this then it should help your nervousness. You will be fine because you know what you're talking about, and even if you make a small slip then that actually doesn't matter - in fact no-one will notice.

Here's the tips I listed on the previous post on a similar topic. That topic was more about a general presentation, but most is still true for teaching:

"#1 bit of advice in any presentation situation is that EVERYONE WANTS YOU TO DO WELL!!

People are not hoping you muck it up so relax.

Other than keeping relaxed some other tips I use (I'm weird and enjoy presenting)

- Write out your first sentence on a cue card in full. Once you have the first sentence out it becomes easier
- Speak slowly - most people talk too quickly and um and err a lot. If you feel you are speaking a bit too slowly you're probably talking at the right kind of pace. Doing this allows you to make less mistakes on tricky words etc
- Don't worry about silence! A couple of seconds of silence doesn't matter. It will feel like an eternity to you, but no one listening will notice. Knowing this allows you to collect your thoughts if you get into trouble.
- Don't use too many slides with too much info. People will read the slide and not listen to you! A good picture or graph is useful, as people will have something to look at, but will hopefully still pay attention.

The big one though is the first one. If you remember that, relax, and don't care too much what others think then you'll be fine."


Hope that helps.



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